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October 25th, 2012

King Crushes Vilsack in Carroll Debate

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Written by: Kevin Hall
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Christie Vilsack should make it a point to avoid the Santa Maria Winery in Carroll and any appearances on Iowa Public Television. Both venues were bad news for Vilsack in the past. Thursday night, the two were combined for the fifth debate between Vilsack and Congressman Steve King and the troubling trend continued. Steve King completely outshined his liberal opponent.

One of the first stops on Vilsack’s “listening tour” around Iowa’s 4th Congressional District last year was a stop at the Santa Maria Winery in Carroll. She was almost a half hour late. A grand total of seven people awaited the former first lady of Iowa. Instead of a festive atmosphere, the mood more closely resembled a morgue.

Once there, much like she did in Thursday’s debate, Vilsack avoided questions from the attendees. “I need to get to know you before I can tell you how I would represent you,” she told them.

Over the summer, Vilsack appeared on IPTV’s “Iowa Press” program. Desperately trying to paint herself as a moderate, Vilsack refused to take a side on numerous issues. Members of Vilsack’s own party said the appearance made her look “like a rookie on that show, it made me cringe”. Other descriptions from top Dems included  “completely unprepared,” “unbelievable,” “just short of embarrassing,” and “deer in the headlights.”

Those same Democrats likely shared similar views after watching Thursday night’s debate, which was broadcast across the state by Iowa Public Television and nationwide on C-SPAN. Vilsack was simply out of her league.

While Steve King gave strong, firm answers on every question, Vilsack repeatedly equivocated. She avoided answering questions, trying to steer the conversation to an attack on King. Vilsack has used the same tactics in all five debates. They stopped working after the first.

Each time Vilsack refused to answer a question, Steve King smartly pointed that out. When she tried to corner King on his stances or attack him by using an out-of-context quote, he called her out on the falsehoods and rejected the premise of the attack. Vilsack’s desperate approach drew chuckles from the audience on three or four different occasions.

Meanwhile, Congressman King capably painted Vilsack as a true liberal. Wednesday night at the Iowa GOP’s Reagan Dinner, he said Vilsack was “to the left of San Francisco” on her policy views. When asked about that comment by moderator Kay Henderson, King doubled-down, pointing out the liberal groups that support Vilsack are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking King.

“They’re out there (with) San Francisco and the left of San Francisco,” King said. “One of them would be HSUS, the anti-meat lobby, and so I think it’s a pretty easy case to make. This isn’t a centrist running against a conservative. This is someone that I think has postured themself as a centrist but when you look at the positions, it’s an entirely different story.”

Pointing out that an anti-meat group supports your opponent when you’re running in the nation’s number one agricultural district was smart and effective. When Vilsack tried to blame the lack of Congress’ passage of a new Farm Bill on King, his response was swift, direct and devastating. “Sixty ag groups support me. I don’t know any that support Mrs. Vilsack.”

The Democrat challenger made it worse by pointing out that she has travelled the country with and gotten to know the CEOs of many of those ag groups. The fact that they know her so well, and her husband is the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, yet they endorse her opponent does not speak well of Mrs. Vilsack, so she helped illustrate King’s point.

The final 20 minutes were particularly demoralizing for Democrats hoping to unseat Congressman King. Along with the aforementioned ag-related discussion, Vilsack showed she was completely out of her depth discussing the military and foreign policy.

When the conversation turned to trade with China, after King discussed the need to crack down on their continued theft of intellectual property, Vilsack visibly struggled to come up with an intelligent response. Finally, moderator Dean Borg asked, “Do I hear you agreeing with Mr. King?” Vilsack was forced to admit that she did.

Even worse, Vilsack destroyed one of her main attacks against King in the closing minutes. She has criticized the Kiron native for being a national political figure and not focusing enough on Iowa. However, in this debate, Vilsack said she wanted to do exactly what she’s accused King of doing.

“I want to expand the definition of being a congressperson to being a spokesperson for my state” because she can “speak to all different sides of an issue” and go out around the country and “explain what we do here”.

Considering Vilsack refuses to take any side on important issues, while claiming she can speak to all different sides of an issue, it’s clear that Mrs. Vilsack is a politician completely lacking self-awareness.

Overall, it was a very bad night for the Vilsack campaign and a very good one for Congressman King. Any undecided voters in the Fourth District who watched the debate saw no reason to support the outmatched and outclassed Mrs. Vilsack.

You can watch the debate in its entirety on IPTV’s website by clicking here.

Photo by Dave Davidson,

About the Author

Kevin Hall

Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor’s office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad’s 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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